Gov. Matt Bevin joined Toyota executives and local officials in Georgetown to celebrate the opening of the company’s $80 million North American production engineering headquarters.
More than 600 engineers at the new facility connect the dots between Toyota’s vehicle design teams and its factory production lines. Known as the Production Engineering Manufacturing Center, the Georgetown facility will also help innovate and develop new technology for Toyota’s manufacturing plants across North America.
“Toyota’s impact on the Kentucky economy reaches every corner of the commonwealth, and this production engineering headquarters is just the latest example of the company’s dedication to our great state,” Gov. Bevin said.
“It is my goal to turn Kentucky into the center of engineering and manufacturing in the United States, and this is the type of project that proves that goal is attainable. I want to thank Toyota for its continued show of faith in Kentucky and our workforce, and I look forward to more announcements of this nature in the years ahead.”
The center and its state-of-the-art lab serves as the manufacturing nucleus for Toyota’s 14 North American plants. It became possible as Toyota began consolidating its North American headquarters to Texas. The company donated a portion of its previous engineering campus in Erlanger, Ky., for a new STEAM-based educational center to serve the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati region. In March, Gov. Bevin announced a $6.8 million Work Ready Skills Initiative grant to Boone County Schools to reconfigure Toyota’s office and engineering lab into a learning environment. The school is expected to be open in time for the 2019-2020 school year.
Now a core group of Toyota’s North American production engineers will work in Georgetown. By locating the new center next to Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky Inc. (TMMK) – the company’s largest manufacturing plant globally – the engineering team can gain quick feedback on innovations in a production environment.
“Our production engineers are at the top of their game and help shape the future of Toyota,” said Jim Lentz, chief executive officer of Toyota Motor North America. “They push the limits every day on what’s possible in manufacturing to produce ever-better vehicles. And their hard work and commitment to quality shows in the products we build in our 14 plants across North America.”
During today’s event, production engineers showcased the TILT Lab, a space focused on problem solving and innovation, where engineers move ideas from the concept stage to prototypes using technology such as 3-D printers, virtual reality, welders, lasers and more. Advancements made in the TILT Lab will be used at facilities across North America to improve processes and solve challenges. The i-Road, a three-wheeled vehicle that is a hybrid of a car and a motorbike, was also on display during the event.
The unveiling of the engineering facility follows Toyota’s announcement in April of a $1.33 billion “Reborn” project that is reinvesting, refurbishing and updating the TMMK plant. A paint shop fitted with new equipment and technology also is part of the investment. Separately, Toyota in September announce it will invest an additional $121 million in TMMK to expand its 2.5 liter engine production capacity.
Sen. Damon Thayer, of Georgetown, said he’s intrigued to get a look at the new facility.
“I congratulate TMMK on this next step in the company’s multimillion dollar expansion here in Georgetown,” Sen. Thayer said. “TMMK has been a great economic and community partner for our region, and I look forward to the final completion of the engineering headquarters project.”
Rep. Mark Hart, of Falmouth, said working in tandem with companies like Toyota ensure continued growth.
“Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky is the heart of Scott and surrounding counties, providing thousands of jobs and bringing unparalleled economic benefits to us all,” Rep. Hart said. “Their rapid expansion this year solidifies that Toyota is here to stay as long as we continue to provide a pro-growth environment where good companies like this can thrive.”
Georgetown Mayor Tom Prather expressed gratitude for Toyota’s continued commitment.
“We are so excited and pleased with the new on-site PEMC at Toyota in Georgetown and the continued reinvestment into the plant, the community, the region and the commonwealth,” Mayor Prather said.
Scott County Judge-Executive George Lusby noted the company’s history in the community.
“The new Toyota Production Engineering and Manufacturing Campus is another in a long line of quality investment on the part of great community partner Toyota Motor North America,” Judge-Executive Lusby said.
Kentucky’s automotive industry, for years one of the Commonwealth’s greatest strengths, today grew even stronger as Gov. Steve Beshear joined Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) officials and community leaders in Georgetown to unveil the first Lexus built in the United States.
TMMK’s production of the luxury-model Lexus ES 350, the top-selling Lexus sedan worldwide, is creating 750 new Kentucky jobs with an investment of $360 million in the project. The expansion allows TMMK to produce about 50,000 Lexus vehicles per year.
“This is an important day for the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Beshear. “For Lexus to have the confidence in our Kentucky workforce to build this magnificent car speaks volumes. These additional 50,000 vehicles are further proof that the state of Kentucky is a great place to do business for the automotive industry. This is why we are the third-largest producer of light vehicles in the U.S.”
“To be chosen to build the Lexus ES 350 is a great honor for not only Toyota, but the state of Kentucky,” said Wil James, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky Inc. “It brings us full circle in that we were the first wholly owned plant for Toyota in North America, and, now, we are the first to build Lexus in the United States.”
Toyota opened the Georgetown facility, the company’s largest manufacturing facility outside Japan, in 1988. In addition to the Lexus ES 350, the Georgetown facility also manufactures the Toyota Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon and Avalon Hybrid, as well as 4-cylinder and V6 engines. With Lexus, the Kentucky plant’s capacity increases to more than 550,000 vehicles per year. Total employment now stands above 7,500.
It was during a visit by Gov. Beshear to Toyota’s headquarters in Japan that the possibility of this significant project came to light. As a proactive measure, Gov. Beshear worked with the Kentucky General Assembly to pass legislation expanding the Kentucky Jobs Retention Act (KJRA), an incentive program designed to spur job creation and significant investments in Kentucky’s automotive and parts manufacturing facilities.
KJRA was originally designed to encourage recent investment and job growth by Ford Motor Co. in Louisville. Gov. Beshear recognized the legislation’s potential for other automakers and large parts-manufacturing facilities. He signed House Bill 400 in 2012, making the incentive accessible to Toyota and other major companies.
The following spring, Toyota received approval from the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority for incentives through the newly expanded KJRA program, paving the way to the $360 million Lexus investment. The project also included other plant upgrade investments totaling $171.2 million.In total, the investment marks the second-largest by Toyota in its Georgetown facility and the largest since an $800 million addition in 1991.
Across nearly three decades, TMMK established itself as a leader in the Commonwealth’s auto industry. In addition to employing thousands of Kentuckians, Toyota has provided collaborative leadership to implement best practices in workforce development and other industry initiatives.
TMMK’s training model provided a foundation for the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME), a statewide apprenticeship-and-collegiate program training a new generation of advanced-manufacturing employees. Also, among many other community and statewide achievements, the company helped found the Kentucky Auto Industry Association (KAIA).
“We are thrilled to welcome the production of Lexus’ ES 350 model to Georgetown, as well as the estimated 750 new jobs it will provide,” said Sen. Damon Thayer, of Georgetown. “Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky has been a tremendous asset to our state’s economy for decades, and we are beyond proud in the continued confidence the company has placed in our community. We appreciate the efforts of everyone who made this project a reality.”
“This is a great day for Toyota and all of the Commonwealth, and it marks another major milestone forward for both as we build on a partnership that now extends back 30 years,” said Rep. Tom McKee, of Cynthiana. “I have seen firsthand what Toyota has meant to our region during that time and am certainly happy that the company decided to build on that considerable commitment by adding the Lexus line. I want to thank Gov. Beshear and his administration, my fellow legislators and our local leaders for helping Toyota to take this step. Its impact will be felt for decades to come.”
“How pleased we are that Toyota and Lexus have the confidence in Georgetown as a place to build the best car in the world,” said Georgetown Mayor Tom Prather. “We are excited about the opportunity and welcome Lexus to our community. I think it is appropriate that Lexus is here because Georgetown is a Lexus kind of place. I’m looking forward to our mutual success!”
“This is a big day for all of Scott County and the entire state as we move forward with Toyota in building great cars and ensuring the economic future for many years to come,” said Scott County Judge-Executive George Lusby.
TMMK’s location in Georgetown helped drive Kentucky’s automotive industry to the thriving level it is today. Kentucky is currently home to more than 470 automotive-industry companies that employ nearly 86,000 people. Additionally, ties between Kentucky and the Japanese business community continue to flourish, with Kentucky boasting more than 170 Japanese-owned manufacturing, service and technology facilities that collectively employ more than 41,500 people.
For more information on TMMK, visit www.toyotageorgetown.com.
A detailed community profile for Georgetown (Scott County) can be viewed here.
Information on Kentucky’s economic development efforts and programs is available at www.ThinkKentucky.com. Fans of the Cabinet for Economic Development can also join the discussion on Facebook or follow on Twitter. Watch the Cabinet’s “This is My Kentucky” video on YouTube.